Plan the Perfect Holiday Soiree

The holidays bring so much fun to our social calendars this time of year as we gather with friends and families. Does the idea of hosting a celebration have you feeling the stress? Browse a collection of Martha Stewart’s best tips for planning, preparation, and hosting a wonderful gathering.

Set the Tone

As you begin the first phase of planning, it’s important to ask yourself what type of party you want to have. Will it be a formal sit-down dinner? A more casual cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres? A dinner party can become quite easy when it’s set up buffet style, while make-ahead appetizers are ideal for a seamless cocktail party.

The Guest List

Once you have set the tone of your party, it’s time to decide who to invite and how you’ll invite them. A few great ways to share invitations are my “email or post, or you can call guests.” Because calendars fill quickly around the season, you’ll want to plan as far in advance as possible, or select a weeknight evening when guests aren’t likely to already have plans.

Menu Inspiration

Once the who, what, when and where are established, it’s time to think about the menu. Martha Stewart has an excellent selection of “mix-and-match” easy menus to choose from, which will relieve the stress of planning and keep you from spending long hours in the kitchen trying to master complicated recipes.


If you decided on a cocktail party, you’ll want to list the appetizers you’ll be serving and try to select recipes that can be made one or two days before the event, so you can spend the party enjoying yourself and mingling with guests.

Cocktail Bar

While it may seem like a fun idea to craft your own signature cocktail throughout the evening, “the last thing you want is to spend your own party fixing drinks.” Try setting up a cocktail bar with the essentials: a selection of hard liquors (think vodka, gin, scotch, whiskey), precut garnishes (lemons, limes, cherries, orange peel, olives) and a few recipe cards that will allow guests to serve themselves.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Just like Santa, you want to make a list and check it twice. This should include a schedule of when things need to be taken care of throughout the day and it should accommodate a one-hour buffer of time before the party starts, so you will be prepared—and not frazzled—should anything unexpected arise.

Holiday Décor

Holiday parties can be so much fun to host because they give us a chance to transform our homes into winter wonderlands. Though it can be tempting to go grand, Martha Stewart recommends thinking small: “Save space for food by displaying low arrangements of blooms in lieu of a large centerpiece” and “Use small accents, such as gilded nuts, to fill any empty spots on the dining or buffet table.”


While not every item can be prepared in advance, you should accomplish as much as you can toward food and drinks as early as you can. If you are organized and you have mise en place, then you will be able to serve as an excellent host/hostess when the party begins.

Finally….Have Fun!

With impeccable planning and preparation, you’ll be primed to have a stellar time at your holiday party. And when you’re having fun, your guests will too.